Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stephen Schneider

Stephen Schneider is Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies at Stanford University. His new book is Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth's Climate.

From Schneider's interview with Marilyn Berlin Snell at The New Republic:

In your book, you suggest a kind of continuum: from objective data to subjective determinations based on the data, and then to value judgments.

Right. What to do about what we know--that’s a question of values. But it’s values informed by science. In 1973, I got a call from the Council on Foreign Relations wanting me to talk about policy. I told them that if we’re using the atmosphere as a free sewer to dump our tailpipe wastes, and it’s going to cause change that could harm agriculture, ecosystems, ice sheets, and sea level, then maybe a smart move would be to slow down the rate at which we pollute. That’s a value judgment, and I’ve been making them from the beginning. I’m a very risk-averse person and I worry much more about the planetary life support system than the bottom line of the coal industry.

How then do you defend against charges that you’re an activist?

I am an activist. I want the world to be a better place, and I define specifically what I mean by that: If one group, the rich, benefits from an activity like dumping their waste in the atmosphere and the other group, the poor, are hurt by it and don’t get much benefit, that’s an inequity. Therefore, in my value system, that’s a higher criteria for action than aggregate dollars. I don’t have aggregate dollars as my moral principle. I look at who’s responsible. But I never say that without admitting that those are my values. So, that’s activism.

What’s the difference between being a climate-change skeptic and a denier?

Every good scientist is a skeptic. In fact, I would argue that every good citizen is a skeptic. We have to learn to discern, and listen to...[read on]
Bradford Plumer says Stephen Schneider is "George Will's Favorite Climatologist."

--Marshal Zeringue